The Office of International Programs is currently planning to move forward with its scheduled programs for the Fall 2020 semester, according to an email sent to students enrolled in the fall programs. OIP said it will make final decisions in mid-May as to whether programs that begin in June or July will continue, and by mid-June, it will evaluate whether the programs that begin in September and October will run as planned.
“With so much uncertainty around COVID-19 worldwide, we want to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information possible,” the email reads.
OIP said in the email that it would make decisions on a case-by-case basis, depending on guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization, as well as an evaluation by BC’s emergency management team. It also said it will be closely monitoring developments from host universities and program providers, as well as reports from experts and sources for specific regions. It will also take into account difficulties students may encounter in acquiring student visas and in reserving housing and courses.
BC suspended all Spring 2020 programs on March 12, following the CDC’s recommendation to recall students abroad and U.S. travel guidelines at the time. OIP advised them to immediately begin making plans to return to the United States.
While no final decisions have been made, the email offered students guidance as to how the process would look based on different scenarios.
In the event that individual programs are canceled prior to their start dates, individual students will be contacted by their advisers and given two options: register for a different program for the semester from a provided list or withdraw from the abroad pool without penalty.
Students will not be able to request switching to a program for the spring of 2021 due to a lack of available spots, but they are allowed to request being placed on the waitlist for a spring program. OIP introduced the waitlist option when it released its decisions for the 2020-2021 year.
In light of the uncertainty surrounding programming plans, OIP has altered its normal policies to allow students more flexibility. OIP said in the email that it would waive the late withdrawal penalty up until programs are confirmed.
“We realize that some students and parents may not feel comfortable waiting for a final determination [to be made],” the email said. “We fully support students’ decision to do so, and students (and families) need to make the decision that is right for them.”
Because OIP has waived the late withdrawal penalty until programs are confirmed, this means it will refund all students, both those whose programs are canceled and those who choose to withdraw, the full amount paid on their BC accounts, Gozik said in an email to The Heights.
If OIP decides it must cancel all programs, the email said, it will work to provide accommodations for students to enroll in courses on campus. The University has not yet released a decision regarding returning to campus in the fall.
“Offices and departments across campus have already begun planning to ensure that additional spots in courses will be opened,” the email said.
The Office of Residential Life is evaluating options for students eligible for on-campus housing and will offer eligible students housing on a “space available basis” in the case of program cancellations, according to the email. OIP also reminded students of the off-campus housing alternatives and provided them with listings.
“We will not differentiate [between BC and external programs] in terms of accommodations for registration for housing and courses, for any students who opt to return in the fall rather than going abroad,” Gozik said in an email to The Heights. “We will do our absolute best to make that transition back to BC as smooth as possible.”
The email also advised students still planning on studying abroad in the fall or for the full year to submit their Final Confirmation Forms by Friday’s deadline. Normally, OIP registers students for their abroad courses after they have submitted the confirmation form, which causes any BC courses they registered for to be dropped, but OIP is delaying abroad course registration until after programs have been confirmed.
“The form is still due May 1st (it’s just helpful for the office to have a good sense of how many students are truly committed to going abroad next semester regardless of what happens) but nothing about signing the form goes into effect until after June 1st,” OIP program manager Victoria Garcia said in an email to a student.
The email suggested that students refrain from making travel arrangements until programs are confirmed.
Although BC has yet to make a determination about its own programs, various external providers have contacted BC students about changes to their programs, including shortened program lengths, reduced program fees, and changes to housing accommodations.
Gozik said in an email to The Heights that he is not yet sure exactly how different BC programs will look due to the outbreak, though the changes may vary slightly depending on each program’s location. Determinations as to how to best follow local guidelines will be made by local housing providers, including residence hall staff, landlords, and homestay placement agencies.
“Much still remains to be seen and there will be significant differences from one location to the next,” Gozik said in his email to The Heights. “We will be monitoring this process closely and working with partners to ensure students’ health and safety.”
This article has been updated to include the information regarding refunds for withdrawal and program cancelations.